Saturday, 6 July 2013
Crime at the Seaside
It's the second time I've been part of Wordpool, and I sense that the festival is going from strength to strength. Such events need a number of years to establish themselves in the public consciousness, and I can only hope that, (even though the writers who take part aren't paid fees, so I'm not arguing for more money for me!) funding continues to make sure that Wordpool continues to flourish and grow. It was nice that the council's chief executive took the trouble to come along to the event, and I like to think he will have gone away happy with what his people in the libraries and culture part of the authority are doing to promote literature, and a good deal else besides, for the benefit of the local community..
This sort of thing matters everywhere, and arguably it's of especial value in a large town like Blackpool, which is embarking on a process of recovery and regeneration after years in the doldrums. It's a town which scores quite poorly on some indicators; for instance, I was told that there are many people with mental health and other problems, and even in an age of austerity, it's important for the country as a whole that these communities are given every chance and encouragement to thrive.
I've always had a soft spot for Blackpool, and as I said during the event, I'd rather like to write a short story set there. I went to the famous Illuminations as a child, and have taken my own children back there from time to time. We even once had a week-end break there in January, and while this may seem odd,i it was really enjoyable. It's a place that caters for families better than most, and you don't have to spend a fortune, either. Yes, it's a town with its tawdry aspects, but it also has a lot of vitality and some great traditions. Relying on past glories isn't enough, but I seized the chance to stay around for a day and a half and enjoy the sunshine. Not just visiting the piers and the sea front, but also Stanley Park, which is one of the largest and (in my opinion) most appealing of municipal parks in Britain, with a lovely heronry and much else besides. There's no denying that Blackpool still suffers from its reputation as a haven for rowdy stag and hen parties and it's not a must-see destination for enough people outside the north west of England, let alone overseas. But perhaps it should be. It's a resort full of character, and I'm really pleased to see it's heading in the right direction.